Report By FOI Coalition Publicity
The Freedom of Information Coalition in Nigeria(FOICN) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the Proceeds of Crime-POCA and Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center-NFIC bills recently passed by the National Assembly.
National Coordinator of the Coalition, Walter Duru, who made the call while addressing newsmen in Owerri on Tuesday, described them as necessary legislations required to strengthen the country’s anti-graft war.
Duru, who made a strong case for the President’s assent to the bills lamented over the devastating effects of corruption in the country and challenged him to assent to them as a show of his commitment to the war against corruption in Nigeria.
“If we have POCA and NFIC in place, the President can as well go to sleep, as they shall close the existing gaps in our legislations that enable corruption to flourish.”
The NFIC Bill seeks to establish the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Center to perform the traditional function of collecting, analyzing and disseminating financial intelligence to law enforcement agencies and other authorized entities.
It is designed to provide a sustainable and credible legal framework for the Financial Intelligence Center-FIC, Nigeria. As is the accepted practice in other jurisdictions, the Bill seeks to provide the FIC with operational independence and autonomy, and greater ability to provide financial intelligence to all relevant competent authorities in order to strengthen anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) measures.
POCA Bill seeks to establish a central Agency to manage the proceeds recovered from convicted criminals.
It focused on recovering illegally acquired property through forfeiture, confiscation or civil recovery and provides the powers to seize, freeze, and restrain criminals from dealing with their property.
Commenting on the implications of the Bills, Duru, who also doubles as Executive Director of Media Initiative against Injustice, Violence and Corruption-MIIVOC, explains:
“The NFIC Bill will ensure that the Center is not tied to any agency but will have adequate measures to build an independent financial intelligence system.”
“For POCA, It is no news that the assets recovered from corrupt politicians in Nigeria cannot be accounted for. They are simply re-looted, thereby making a mess of the anti-corruption war. In some other cases, criminals are allowed to keep and enjoy the proceeds of their criminality.”
“In the light of the international obligations and standards imposed by various international instruments to which Nigeria has acceded to, it is imperative that steps are taken to ensure effective management of assets recovered from corrupt public office holders.”
“Allowing criminals to keep the proceeds of their criminality encourages re-investment in criminal enterprise. It sets criminals up as negative role models and encourages more crime, while influencing others to take up a criminal lifestyle.”
“The Bill provides a legal and institutional framework for the recovery and management of proceeds of unlawful activities. It also seeks to harmonize and consolidate the existing legislative provisions on the recovery of proceeds of crime and related matters in Nigeria.
The absence of a comprehensive legal framework to deal with recovery and management of assets has hampered the anti-graft war in Nigeria.”
“Today, the laws on the recovery and management of proceeds of crime in Nigeria are fragmented in some existing legislations, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, the Independent Corrupt Practices Offences and Other Related Matters Act, 2000, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act, 2004 etc.”
“Although, there are some provisions in these statutes that allow the government to recover the proceeds of crime, they are in the main, disjointed, underused and ineffective.”
“Even when assets have been recovered, they have been dissipated, lost, or in any event, not properly accounted for, Duru stressed”
Duru, a Communication and Development expert described the proposed Nigeria Financial Intelligence Center and Proceeds of Crime Agency as central to the success of the war against money laundering and terrorist financing and corruption in Nigeria.